There is one passion of the quintessential geek with which I have never found myself in sympathy: the pressing need to dress up and go out in public as their favourite sci-fi or fantasy character.
Let me say, here, that I have nothing against proudly showing your allegiance to the Jedi Order or your love of mutantkind by, for example, sporting a witty t-shirt from www.ThinkGeek.com (I, myself, am very fond of my HAN SHOT FIRST t-shirt and have encountered friends in strange places as a result of wearing it on long plane flights). I have even been known to model Princess Leia's plaits for the occasional fancy-dress party. I'm afraid, however, that I cannot bring myself to go the whole hog and roll up to a public event wearing pointy ears and a robe.
Does this make me any less of a fangirl?
My childhood town being rather skint on conventions, my first real introduction to this odd trait did not occur until the late 90s, when I attended several midnight premieres only to find myself standing in line for popcorn with a dozen Gandalfs or Obiwans, or listening to the "clack, clack" of plastic lightsaber battles raging around me as I camped in the hallway outside the cinema, waiting to be let in.
This practice, I have since discovered, is not confined to the depths of night or to World of Warcraft singles events. It is so prevalent, I have been forced to coin the term "Extreme Fantasism" to define it.* The main outlet for any Extreme Fantasist is undoubtedly the fan convention. You will find these everywhere from Sydney to San Diego and are the places to be seen for any self-respecting geek. For the Extreme Fantasist, much self-satisfaction is derived from attending a convention dressed as Spock and then running into Leonard Nimoy. For me, on the other hand, such an occurrence would be the height of shame.
Although the good ol’ U.S. of A. has more than its fair share of Extreme Fantasists, it by no means holds the exclusive rights. Whilst travelling home on the bus one Friday night close to the Witching Hour, I was shocked to see a coven meeting openly in Trafalgar Square. It was a moment before I realised that real witches most likely do not wear black pointy hats. Nor do they wear school uniforms under their robes and draw lightning-bolt scars on their foreheads. Ah, yes, "Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows" had been released in bookstores at 1200 that night.
In most situations, I’m all in favour of expressing yourself and having some fun with fashion, but I admit I cringed openly when I arrived at a black-tie Star Trek event to find one solitary guest dressed up as a Bajoran ambassador. (She looked so pleased with herself, though, that I didn’t have the heart to remind her the event was in celebration of the original series and Bajor had yet to be discovered.)
I am not sure exactly where my reluctance to join the ranks of the sartorially challenged stems from. It could simply be a fear of making myself look like an idiot. It could be the result of years of subjection to horrific dance costumes (note to parents/teachers: if your child/student already has image issues related to their weight, don't make them dress up as a fat baby and dance in front of their whole school). Or, perhaps I am entirely missing the point. Maybe I should try it, just once - purely as a method of research, of course. Methinks a character with a full-face mask might be the best option…
*For a good example of Extreme Fantasism, see Justin Long’s character in “Galaxy Quest“.